Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Art of War (and Love) with apologies to Sun Tzu

A certain group of men meets for coffee every so often. They live in a small town; most have for most of their lives. Some would call them elderly: those of you backpacking your way across campus, or zooming your way through careers and parenthood. These guys have already done all this, and have been placed in a box society calls “retired.” Their paychecks may now come from retirement accounts and Social Security; their status meetings are now coffee gatherings; their parenting has evolved from scolding disciplinarian to indulgent grand, but that doesn’t mean they’re out of it. Maybe they’re not quite as stylish and trendy as some, but still hip in their own archival sort of way. Their collective wisdom doesn’t result so much from a level of IQ as it does from experience.

Around the table there’s Hayward, a once dairyman turned flower grower; Punch (Gale), an ex- mechanic, ex-carpenter, ex-trucker who spends a lot of time and money at Bass Pro; Soc, a Cherokee elder, and miser of the spoken word; Abel, an ex-banker now tomato grower; and White Oxley, a callous-handed working man and unsolicited philosopher. There are others who come and go at the monthly meetings, but these five are the “regulars.” Some fish, some golf, all attempt to avoid their wives. These coffee meets are one such escape. A main rule of theirs, like the sign hung outside the old Our Gang/Little Rascals clubhouse, is No Girls Allowed. It’s not so much a misogynistic thing as it is their lifetimes of confoundation with the female of the species. The all-male coffee meet gives them a forum to discuss this issue without fear of reprisal, as well as others.

One such instance:

“You know, women is a lot like bass,” White Oxley said.

That statement was offered after Hayward had said, “A man once told me, if it weren’t for sex, men and women would’ve killed each other off a long time ago.”

White stirred the lukewarm tan liquid in his mug, as he waited for someone to request elaboration. The cup once held coffee, but had become so diluted with creamer and sweetener, it now resembled, and tasted like, the tan icing you’d find atop a doughnut shop maple bar. When no one responded, White continued on his own. “You can spend a lot of time trying different lures to attract them, but they can always find a way to jump off your hook.”

“Had this crankbait onest called Plum Crazy,” Punch said. “Pretty thing; expensive, too. Ole boy at Bass Pro told me when bass saw it they’d wet themselves. Then he laughed, sort uh crazy like. Never caught nothing with it, though.”

“Now see, that’s what I mean,” White said. “Your women just don’t often appreciate what a man has to offer.”

Soc grunted and sipped some coffee. “In fishin’,” he said. “You need to lower your expectations and raise your commitment. ‘Spect that’s true between women and men, too.”

The table got thoughtfully quiet as the others pondered Soc’s pronouncement. One or two nodded as if they might agree.

My name is Phil Truman and I write novels.

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Dan Case said...

This is profound.

Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick said...

great style and content. thouroughly entertained! Dr. Mike

Heather Hummel said...

Love the post, Phil. I Tweeted to you and John Locke that this group reminds me of a group of men who come to the coffee shop where I write. This group could be in any town at any coffee shop though. I imagine it's a mom and pop shop though. Cheers, Heather